Why You Should Share Your Home DNA Results with Your GP
A home DNA test like the ones from Ancestry DNA or 23andMe is a great way to get some information on where you’re from and who your forefathers were. While this is important to you, it probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to your doctor.
So what good can a home DNA test be to you AND your doctor? The short answer is, lots. The long answer takes a little more explanation. For this article, we will use a test from 23andMe as an example.
A Little About the Test
At the 23andMe website, you can order two different DNA test kits. One is just for ancestry purposes and retails for around $99. The other test is the one you want if you’re looking for health markers and carrier status for various illnesses. This test is called the Health + Ancestry Service, which costs around $199.
Taking the test itself is easy. Once your requested kit arrives, follow the simple instructions included and spit your way to more information. No needles, no blood and no test-taking anxiety!
Once you register your sample and return it in the mail you’re done! Now you just sit back and wait for the results, which take about 6-8 weeks to get, depending on how busy the lab is.
What You Can Learn From the Test
Below are a few of the genetic markers this test can check for.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
This is an eye condition that typically targets people over 50 from European descent. The macula is a spot in the center of the eye that helps you focus your sight. AMD can lead to vision loss in one or both eyes. This test checks the ARMS2 and CFH genes to see if you might be susceptible to this condition.
This is a commonly tested for gene marker because it has a significant hereditary component. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can help determine if you are at risk for developing breast cancer and the risk of it coming back down the road after remission is reached. It can be the basis of decision making when it comes to treatment options.
This illness also mostly affects people of European ancestry and tends to run in families. The bodies of people who suffer from this disease have an auto-immune response to gluten, a protein found in certain grains like wheat and rye. The HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DBQ2 genes can give you information on whether you or your loved ones might suffer from this ailment in the future.
Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HFE‑Related)
Hemochromatosis is an overabundance of iron in the blood. In the case of the HFE gene, a mutation doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the problem, but it can act as an indicator of something to be watchful of when diagnosing liver issues. Removing blood from the body at regular intervals can treat this condition.
The G6PD gene mutation can tell if a person has a Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. This affects 1 in 10 males of African descent and can cause issues such as hemolytic anemia, jaundice, fatigue and rapid heart rate.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
If someone were to inherit a defective SERPINA1 gene from both parents, it could lead to lung and liver disease in adulthood. Knowing if you are one of those people ahead of time could help diagnose these issues. This could also help determine if your children might be at risk in the future as well.
Thrombophilia is a clotting disorder of the blood that can lead to serious injury or death if a clot should reach the lung or brain. The hereditary version can be traced back to the F2 and F5 genes and is more common among people of European descent. Knowing you have this can help you be aware of and reduce other risk factors.
Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating diagnosis for sufferers and their families. The APOE gene can let you know if you or a loved one has the propensity to contract this later in life. Late-onset typically means early symptoms could develop in one’s early 60s. When diagnosed early, there are treatments that can slow symptoms, but not cure it. This disease does not discriminate based on ancestry location, it’s affects everyone from all walks of life and geographic backgrounds.
Another devastating disease, Parkinson’s affects the nervous system and early symptoms include tremors in the extremeties which can impact coordination and mobility. The LRRK2 and GBA genes are known marker for this disease and can help you determine if maybe your symptoms are actually Parkinson’s or something else. This disease is common among those of European, Ashkenazi Jewish and North African Berber descent.
So What Good Is All This Information?
Knowledge is power. If your doctors have your genetic results and know what you might be predisposed to, they can save precious time when it comes to diagnosing your symptoms. This knowledge can lead to faster treatment decisions, getting you back on the road faster.
When it comes to something like the breast cancer genes, for example, knowing if you carry the BRCA2 gene or not can make a difference in your actual treatment plan, regardless of your family history. The BRCA2 gene can signal that you are more likely to have a reoccurrence of breast cancer in the future. If you do have this gene marker, it might lead you to a more radical treatment, such as a double mastectomy. However, if you DON’T have the gene, you might save yourself the trauma of a radical surgery and opt for a less invasive procedure.
The Bottom Line
Knowing your genetic makeup can help you and your doctor make decisions on medical treatment, wellness and proactive courses of action. It can also help lead medical professionals to a faster diagnosis and more targeted treatment plans.
If you have any concerns about how a genetic marker DNA test might impact you or your loved ones, contact a professional genetic counselor. They can guide you through your results and give you sound medical advice on the next steps to take. And remember, these results are not a definitive diagnosis of anything. They are simply a way to get more information and make wise medical choices for your future.
However, nothing replaces good medicine and good self-care. Use this information wisely. Take your risk factors into consideration and make the necessary diet, exercise and supplement decisions now, before disease strikes.